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Trust In Tomorrow

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«Trust In Tomorrow» - Кэрол Мортимер

Carole Mortimer is one of Mills & Boon’s best loved Modern Romance authors. With nearly 200 books published and a career spanning 35 years, Mills & Boon are thrilled to present her complete works available to download for the very first time! Rediscover old favourites – and find new ones! – in this fabulous collection…Tempting the sophisticated tycoon…Chelsea Stevens has been in love with her father’s best friend, Lucas McAdams, for years! So when she shows up on his doorstep—after the most heart-breaking news of her mother’s death—she is even more enamoured by his kindness and caring…Wealthy, successful Lucas knows he should keep his distance from Chelsea, but her feisty nature and bravery are a breath of fresh air for this sophisticated tycoon. Soon Lucas finds himself enjoying Chelsea’s company even more than his mistress’s!
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Trust in Tomorrow Carole Mortimer

www.millsandboon.co.uk

Table of Contents

Title Page

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

Copyright

CHAPTER ONE

CHELSEA kept her head down against the driving rain, the suitcase she carried heavy in her hand, the cab driver having dropped her off a few buildings short of the one she wanted, despite the fact that she had shown him the slip of paper she had with Lucas’s address written on it. And the fare had been exorbitant too, considering she had had to drag her own case in and out of the cab.

Not that she would have minded these few minutes respite from the rush and bustle of the last couple of days, if only it hadn’t been raining. This trip to London had been unplanned, a last-minute thought of Jace’s, and now that she was actually here and able to think a little more clearly herself she didn’t think it was such a good idea. She hadn’t seen Lucas McAdams for the last seven years, not since she was twelve years old, and she had no idea what he was going to make of her visit now. Jace had assured her it would be all right, and in Los Angeles it had seemed that it would be. Now that she was actually in London she wasn’t so sure; Lucas may not even remember the small, silver-haired child whose huge blue eyes had once followed his every move. It had been an embarrassing time in Chelsea’s life, one she would rather forget, although at least she could be confident Lucas had been unaware of her hero-worship; the only thing Lucas had been interested in seven years ago had been advancing himself up the legal ladder as quickly and as far as possible. And at twenty-seven his romantic interest had leant towards the sophisticated, usually patting Chelsea affectionately on the head before going out with one of those women when she visited his family with her parents.

A lot had happened in the intervening years, the move to California for Chelsea with her parents, their divorce six months ago, staying with her mother while continuing to see her father on a regular basis, the death of Lucas’s own parents, while his young sister Camilla also moved to America to advance her modelling career. Camilla had remained a close friend to them all, had also encouraged this visit to Lucas, both she and Jace anxious to get Chelsea away from Los Angeles before the publicity broke out, sure that she would be well out of it with Lucas in London.

Well she was here now, and if Jace had sent the cable as he had said he would, then Lucas would be expecting her. She could always go on to a hotel later if it wasn’t convenient with him for her to stay.

In her preoccupation with her troubled thoughts, her head bowed against the wind and rain, she didn’t see the man getting out of the cab as she stepped sideways to avoid a puddle of water on the sidewalk, the suede boots she wore not the type she should get wet, the movement bringing her straight into the man’s path, the force with which they collided coming as a complete shock to her, knocking all the breath from her body as she lost her balance, falling down on her bottom with a sickening jolt!

‘Why didn’t you look where you’re going?’ growled an unpleasantly harsh voice.

Chelsea gasped as she was verbally attacked instead of given the concern she had been expecting. This man was as much to blame for the collision as she was! ‘Help me up, would you, please?’ she requested coldly, holding out her hand, aware that the seat of her denims was very wet, and her dignity was far from intact, as the people passing by stared at them curiously.

A lean hand came out to meet hers, and she was pulled effortlessly to her feet. ‘Thank you,’ she muttered as she brushed herself down with little effect, her denims damply creased, the thick sheepskin jacket she wore to keep out the brisk English November winds also damp. Her hair was secured under a thick woollen hat the same navy blue as her eyes, although the hat, too, was a little soggy from her walk in the rain.

She looked up at the man with a rueful shrug, at once struck by the handsome hauteur of his face, so tall that he dwarfed even her five-foot six frame. He was leanly built, seeming to be wearing a dark suit beneath the tailored overcoat. But it was his face her gaze returned to as if magnetised, dark brown hair styled over well-shaped ears, dark brown eyes looking down at her with a scowl, showing he wasn’t nearly so impressed with her own appearance. His nose was long and straight, his mouth a stern line, harsh lines beside his nose and mouth, as if he had little to smile about in his life.

Chelsea couldn’t help thinking that such a handsome man had no right to be so rude! ‘I’m sorry,’ she said automatically, although she knew the collision hadn’t just been her fault.

The man nodded tersely, offering no words of apology himself as he turned abruptly to the right and entered the building there, a black overnight bag in his hand.

Chelsea picked up her own case with a frustrated glare in his direction, walking on several feet more before realising she, too, should have entered that apartment building. She only hoped that the rude man didn’t turn out to be a friend of Lucas’s; it would be a bad beginning.

The man was standing waiting for the descent of the elevator when she struggled through the entrance door with her case, sparing her only a cursory glance as not a hint of recognition entered the dark brown eyes. He had literally knocked her flying seconds before, and he had already dismissed her from his mind!

They stepped into the lift together, the only two occupants, the man pressing the button for the eighth floor before turning to her with polite query, his hand still poised next to the floor buttons.

‘Eight suits me fine,’ she murmured in a husky voice.

His haughtiness seemed to increase as he looked down his nose at her. ‘Floor eight happens to be the penthouse apartments,’ he told her in a harshly cold voice.

‘Oh,’ she nodded interestedly.

‘It’s private,’ he added pointedly.

‘Really?’ she was determined to be polite, although this man’s condescending manner was certainly pushing her to the limits of that politeness. What did it matter to him that she was going up to the eighth floor; he certainly didn’t look as if he worked for the security! Maybe he was just one of those interfering neighbours who liked to know who everyone was and what they were doing here. Well, Lucas could be the one to tell him about her, if he chose to do so.

‘Yes,’ the word was bit out precisely, the man’s manner more icy than ever.

‘Nice,’ she said appreciatively for the want of something better to say, wondering what this man expected of her. It was certainly an exclusive-looking building, she could tell that at a glance, but despite her casual appearance she was accustomed to a certain amount of luxury at home herself; no one could look their best after a ten-hour flight. Although looking at this man perhaps he would, he gave the impression—and she was sure it was a true one—that he always looked immaculate whatever the occasion, even the rain that had so dampened her hat had only slightly darkened his already dark hair.

The elevator had stopped on the eighth floor by this time, and with one finger pressed firmly on the ‘Door Open’ button the man made no move to get out.

‘I believe you have the wrong floor,’ he told her abruptly.

‘I’m sure I don’t,’ she said equally as certainly, not needing to consult the piece of paper in her pocket to know this was where Lucas lived; she had looked at it enough during the flight.

The man’s mouth twisted disdainfully. ‘Let me put it another way——’

‘I wish you would,’ she sighed with weary impatience. ‘I’m in a hurry.’

His mouth firmed now, his eyes coldly assessing. ‘I’m not interested,’ he stated icily.

‘Sorry?’ she frowned her puzzlement.

He sighed. ‘This ploy may have worked with other men but I am not in the market for helping you find your air fare home. That was to be the routine, wasn’t it?’ he scorned.

‘What routine?’ Chelsea demanded impatiently. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, I don’t need an air fare. I only just got here.’

‘And you are just about to leave again,’ he told her with grim determination.

‘I don’t think so.’ She shook her head.

‘I do,’ he nodded. ‘You see, I was on to you the moment you entered the building.’

‘On to me?’ she repeated, her brain a little slow after her flight. ‘Maybe you would care to explain that remark?’

‘Certainly,’ he bit out tautly. ‘It was a wet night—a very wet night,’ he added derisively. ‘And you obviously need somewhere to stay tonight,’ he looked pointedly at her suitcase. ‘And I was unfortunate enough to be the one to bump into you.’

‘At least you admit that now!’

‘I admit nothing,’ he ground out. ‘We simply walked into each other, what I said just now was a matter of speech. But the moment you walked on after our collision, stopped, thought for a minute, and then turned back and came into the building after me was when I realised what you were doing.’

And she had thought he had entered the building without giving her a second glance, now it appeared he had been aware of her every movement. ‘What was I doing?’ she prompted, still puzzled by this conversation.

‘Deciding I was a suitable candidate for you to spend the night with——’

‘What?’ she gasped disbelievingly, staring up at him as if he had gone insane, the rest of the conversation now falling into place. ‘Now you listen here——’

‘No, you listen,’ he told her in a controlled voice, the brown eyes cold. ‘You’re too damned young to be up to tricks like this one——’

“‘Tricks” being the operative word,’ she scorned angrily. ‘That’s what you thought you were going to be, didn’t you, my “trick” for the night?’

His expression softened a little at her vehemence, although not much. ‘I’m sure that you wouldn’t have thought of it in that way——’

‘Don’t you believe it, buster,’ Chelsea snapped, her eyes flashing darkly. ‘What you’re talking about is soliciting, and they’re called hookers where I come from too!’

His expression became chilling. ‘If you want to be basic——’

‘Oh, let’s be basic,’ she derided furiously. ‘You can tell me what my next move should be!’ she challenged.

He shrugged broad shoulders, not at all disconcerted by her angry aggression. ‘You watch which apartment I go into, leave it an appropriate amount of time, then knock on my door pretending you have the wrong address for the friend you were supposed to spend the night with, and that you would like to use the telephone. The telephone number conveniently turns out to be a false one too, and I’m supposed to offer to let you spend the night with me.’

‘For a price!’

‘Not necessarily, I’ve heard that picking pockets after the event is quite popular nowadays,’ he commented calmly, looking at her with cool disdain.

‘I don’t know what sort of company you’ve been keeping,’ she scorned. ‘But I don’t go through any man’s pockets before or after the event. But you’re right about one thing …’

‘Yes?’ he prompted arrogantly.

‘I am here to visit a friend,’ she nodded. ‘And I doubt he would be at all amused by the wrong assumption you’ve just made about me!’

‘You’re saying you weren’t looking for a bed for the night?’ he derided mockingly.

‘I’m saying I already have one!’

The brown eyes narrowed at her vehemence. ‘This friend, what’s his name?’

‘I——’

‘I think I should warn you, I know all the tenants on this floor,’ he cut in softly.

‘You would,’ she shot him a resentful glance. ‘But when I tell Lucas what you——’

‘Lucas?’ he echoed sharply, suddenly tense.

‘You mean Lucas McAdams?’

‘Yes,’ she confirmed happily, glad to see how disconcerted he was by this disclosure.

‘Where did you get that name from?’ he demanded to know, his fingers biting into her arm as he tightly clasped it. ‘Tell me!’

Chelsea tried to shake off his grasp, and failed. ‘It happens to be the name of the friend I’m visiting. Now would you let go of my arm!’ She tried to pry his fingers loose.

They wouldn’t be moved, seeming to tighten if anything.

‘Who told you he lived here?’ he demanded briskly. ‘There are no names listed downstairs, and the caretaker is too discreet to reveal the names of any of the tenants.’

‘I told you——’

‘That Lucas McAdams is a friend of yours,’ his mouth twisted. ‘I don’t believe you.’

‘And I don’t give a damn what you believe!’ Her eyes glittered with unshed tears, the last two days the worst of her life, this horrific scene with a complete stranger forcing her to breaking point. ‘I am here to see him, and he is expecting me. If you would just——’

‘I believe I would know if I were expecting a young American guest,’ he cut in with calm deliberation.

Chelsea’s eyes widened with disbelief as the full implication of his words hit her. This man, this harshly suspicious man, couldn’t possibly be Lucas McAdams! She remembered him as being youthfully handsome, rather serious, but not a man with a harsh hardness that repulsed as much as it attracted. But seven years ago she had been only twelve, still a child, with a crush on an older man, a man who had seemed almost god-like to her. At nineteen she could see that the ambition that had always been such a driving force in his life in the past, that had taken him to the top of his profession, had also taken all the youth and happiness from him and left only the harsh shell of a man. No wonder she hadn’t recognised him; there seemed to be little of the old, exuberant Lucas left, just an automaton without a heart or soul.

‘I thought that piece of information might surprise you,’ he derided disdainfully.

‘It did,’ she nodded dully. ‘You’re nothing at all like I remember you.’

Impatience flared in the dark brown eyes. ‘I think it’s time to stop this game——’

‘So do I,’ she sighed wearily. ‘You couldn’t have got my father’s message.’

‘Don’t you think——’ he broke off, the arrogance replaced with confusion, then uncertainty, the hand that had been tightly gripping her arm moving slowly up to remove the woollen hat from her head. The long silver-blonde hair cascaded from its confinement to fall almost to her waist in gentle waves from the centre parting, giving her face an elfin appearance, her wide eyes framed by dark lashes, her nose short and pert, her mouth wide and full-lipped, her chin pointed. ‘Chelsea …?’ Lucas spoke slowly, almost disbelievingly. ‘Chelsea Stevens?’

‘Yes,’ she confirmed huskily, wishing they would get out of this elevator so that she could sit down, before she fell down.

Lucas seemed to become aware of their surroundings at the same time, making an impatient noise in his throat before guiding her over to one of the four doors leading off the long hallway, unlocking it quickly, glancing at the mail that lay on the table just inside the spaciously furnished apartment.

‘You didn’t get Jace’s cable,’ she repeated as she, too, saw the amount of letters lying there; there must be at least several days of mail.

‘Obviously not,’ he bit out dismissively, putting down his overnight case in the hallway. ‘But now that you’re here you can tell me what was in it.’ His eyes narrowed as he looked across the room at her. ‘Are you in trouble?’

‘Pregnant, you mean?’ She was passed being shocked by his suspicions about her.

‘Yes,’ he nodded.

‘You know, at any other time I would find all this amusing,’ she gave a wan smile, putting a hand up to her temple. ‘But at this precise moment in time I don’t think I could find anything funny.’

‘Tell me,’ he instructed abruptly.

‘Do you mind if I take my coat off first?’ The heat in the apartment was making her feel dizzy.

‘Go ahead,’ he invited, his eyes narrowed.

Chelsea shrugged out of the sheepskin jacket, feeling warm for the first time in days, too warm considering she was only wearing a thin black sweater under the jacket, Lucas taking the jacket from her as she looked around for somewhere to put it. ‘Thanks,’ she murmured gratefully, sitting down in one of the black leather armchairs without being invited to do so, her legs feeling too weak to support her any longer.

‘Chelsea?’ Lucas prompted impatiently, throwing the jacket down on another chair with his own, the three-piece suit he wore a charcoal grey colour, tailored to his magnificent physique, the waistcoat taut against his flat stomach, his shirt snowy white against his darker skin.

She took all this in about him without really being aware that she was doing so, her mind as numb as her emotions. How could she tell this man, this complete stranger, her reason for being here?

Lucas seemed to guess at her dilemma. ‘Is it Jace?’ His voice had gentled a little.

She shook her head. Jace was always the same, a handsome rogue of a man who succeeded in charming millions of viewers to his chat-show every week, one of the highest paid and well-liked men in television. No, Jace was indestructible.

‘Gloria, then?’ Lucas prompted again.

Her mother, an older more sophisticated version of herself, the silver-blonde hair kept in a shorter feathered style, faint lines about her blue eyes and vividly painted mouth disputing the mistake people often made of them being sisters. Gloria wasn’t as strong and forceful as Jace, possessed a fragility of character and body.

‘She’s dead,’ Chelsea stated flatly.

Lucas looked taken aback, almost disbelieving, as if he suspected her of lying.

And why shouldn’t he, women of thirty-nine didn’t just die, especially ones as beautiful as her mother had been. ‘It’s true,’ she told him without emotion, her pale face pinched with sorrow now, dark shadows of pain in her eyes.

‘Is that why Jace sent you here?’ Lucas probed.

‘Yes. He—I—The publicity. He didn’t want me involved in that.’ She moistened lips that suddenly seemed devoid of all feeling, having trouble articulating. ‘He said he would contact you,’ she repeated faintly.

‘Maybe he did,’ Lucas nodded grimly. ‘I’ve been unreachable the last few days.’

She had guessed that from the overnight bag and the amount of mail waiting for him. ‘Did you go anywhere nice?’ she asked numbly.

‘Chelsea——’

‘Sorry,’ she grimaced, the heat of the room suddenly overwhelming her. ‘I’m so sorry,’ she murmured vaguely just before she fainted.

She had no idea how much time had passed before she awoke to the feel of a hand gently tapping against her cheek, fighting back the blackness to find Lucas bending over her as she now lay full-length on the leather sofa, Lucas obviously having carried her here. He sat back as her eyes flickered open completely, a mask of polite concern making everything but his eyes seem emotionless, a depth of feeling in the brown eyes that he couldn’t control or hide.

‘I really am sorry.’ She pushed her hair back from her face as she pushed herself up into a sitting position. ‘I’ve never fainted before.’

‘Your——’ He broke off, his mouth firming in self-condemnation.

‘My mother never died before,’ Chelsea finished dryly. ‘No, as far as I know I only had the one.’

‘Chelsea!’

His anger had little effect on her, too much having happened to her the last few days for anything to have much effect, aware only that her mother was dead.

‘I’ve made some coffee.’ Lucas stood up to pour two cupfuls from the pot that stood on the silver tray on the low table in front of the sofa.

‘Was I out that long?’ Chelsea frowned.

‘Long enough,’ he nodded abruptly. ‘Cream and sugar?’

‘Milk if you have it, no sugar,’ she told him in a preoccupied voice, barely aware of his leaving the room to come back with the jug of milk, although her shocked senses did register that the strong brew had sugar in despite her request. She grimaced. ‘I said——’

‘I heard you,’ he confirmed shortly, lowering his long length into the chair opposite her. ‘I think you need the glucose. When did you last have anything to eat?’ His eyes were narrowed disapprovingly.

She knew she was pale, she had been since Saturday. ‘Certainly not today,’ she frowned in concentration. ‘And not yesterday either.’ She shook her head. ‘I can’t remember when I last ate,’ she gave up even thinking about it, her head beginning to pound with the effort.

‘Jace should have made sure that you did,’ came the censorious reply.

Her mouth tightened. ‘I think he may have had other things on his mind.’

Lucas didn’t even blink an eyelid at the rebuke, his gaze steady. ‘When did your mother die?’

She gulped down some of the coffee, not even noticing as it burnt her throat. ‘Two days ago—no, it would be three now,’ she belatedly remembered the time difference. ‘We buried her this—yesterday, morning.’

‘Had she been ill?’ he probed. ‘Your father didn’t let me know——’

‘How could he, if you’ve been unavailable?’ she pointed out logically, guessing from the way he had avoided meeting her gaze earlier when he told her he had been away, that he had been with a woman. ‘Jace couldn’t have let you know, anyway,’ she added dully. ‘It was very sudden. The doctor diagnosed heart-failure.’

‘At only thirty-nine?’

‘It can happen at any age,’ she shrugged. ‘And she was never strong. Jace said there was nothing they could do.’

‘I’ve never got used to the way you call your father Jace,’ he shook his head.

‘Why not, it’s his name.’ She had never seen anything strange about calling the handsome giant of a man who was her father by his first name; she had been doing it ever since she could remember. A young American on holiday in London he had met and married her mother in a matter of months, and she had entered the happy world of their marriage after only eighteen months together, both she and her mother moving back to America with Jace permanently when she was twelve years old. It seemed to have been the beginning of the decay of a previously happy marriage. ‘What did you call your father?’ she asked Lucas now to shake off the memory of past unhappiness.

‘Sir, mostly,’ he answered derisively, something like humour in the dark brown eyes, although it quickly faded. ‘Look, I’d like to check on my post,’ he frowned. ‘Help yourself to more coffee; I shouldn’t be long.’

Chelsea made no effort to stop him striding from the room, needing the next few minutes alone to gather her shaken senses together. She had thought he would have received Jace’s cable, hadn’t envisaged having to tell him of her mother’s death herself. She had withstood the shock of finding her mother unconscious in her bedroom, hours spent at the hospital with Jace before a doctor finally came out to tell them her mother was dead, the friends and well-wishers calling at the house to pay their respects, the funeral, and then finally Jace bundling her on the first available plane to England, little dreaming that the man he had sent her to wouldn’t be here to receive her. The last few minutes of explaining things to Lucas had shaken her badly.

She hadn’t even wanted to come here, had been too numb to protest her feelings when Jace had insisted she made herself scarce for when the news of her mother’s death hit the media. But she wasn’t numb now, and the thought of Lucas McAdams having her here on sufference, because of a friendship that, as far as she knew, hadn’t been nurtured for the last seven years, filled her with dismay.

‘Where do you think you’re going?’

She turned guiltily, in the act of picking up her suitcase in preparation to leave, finding Lucas watching her from the doorway of the room he had disappeared into minutes earlier. ‘I thought I’d go back to the airport,’ she told him truthfully. ‘And get the next flight home.’

His expression was darkly forbidding as he came back into the lounge. ‘When you know Jace wants you to stay here?’

Her eyes widened. ‘He did contact you?’

‘Yes,’ Lucas nodded, adding nothing to the confirmation.

‘What did he say?’ she prompted impatiently.

‘Only what you’ve already told me,’ he dismissed. ‘He’s going to telephone me once you’ve arrived. But he’s already told me enough for me to realise this will be the best place for you for the next few weeks, at least,’ he added grimly.

‘I could have handled the publicity if Jace had given me the chance!’

‘He wanted to spare you any unnecessary pain.’

‘I’m sure he didn’t tell you all that in a cable,’ she derided defensively.

‘You’re right, he didn’t,’ Lucas bit out curtly. ‘I know him well enough to be certain he would want to protect you at all costs.’

Chelsea was sure he was right, but she didn’t know how he could make such a claim about a man he hadn’t seen for so many years. ‘Jace may have changed since you last saw him——’

‘He hasn’t.’

‘Seven years is a long time.’

‘I last met Jace in Los Angeles two weeks ago,’ Lucas told her flatly.

Her brows rose as she couldn’t hide her surprise. ‘I didn’t know that …’

Lucas shrugged. ‘You live with your mother, so how could you possibly be aware of all your father’s friends?’

Mainly because Jace had told her about most of them, although the remark Lucas had made about her living with her mother was what cast the shadow over her face. She had lived with her mother, she had no idea where she lived now, although it seemed that for the moment it was here, with this darkly handsome man who was a complete stranger to her!

‘You’re right,’ she acknowledged dully. ‘But that friendship doesn’t extend to me, and I would rather go back home.’

‘You’re wrong, Chelsea.’ He shook his head, a hint of gentleness to the forbidding mouth. ‘Even if I didn’t at first remember you as the silver-haired angel who dogged my footsteps seven years ago I do remember you now, and I insist that you stay here.’

And she doubted many people resisted when this man insisted, and she was too weary to do so herself right now. ‘You thought I was a hooker,’ she reminded softly.

A dull red hue darkened his face beneath the prominent cheekbones. ‘I’m sorry about that——’

‘I’m not,’ She shook her head, smiling wanly at his puzzled frown. ‘Once I’m a little less tired, a little less numb, I’d like to think there’s something we can sit down and laugh about together.’

Lucas looked as if he would rather forget about the whole incident than laugh about it, concentrating on the first thing she had said. ‘The spare room is already made up, if you would like to go and lie down for a while?’

‘You’re sure I’m not going to inconvenience you?’ she still hesitated.

‘I’m sure,’ he nodded.

‘I meant with—a special friend, or someone,’ she lamely tried to explain what she had meant; Lucas didn’t come across as the sort of man that had girlfriends, although she was sure he had spent the past weekend with the current woman in his life. She vaguely wondered how serious the relationship was.

His mouth tightened disapprovingly. ‘With no one,’ he bit out. ‘I’ll show you your bedroom.’

Chelsea followed him with a slight grimace on her face; obviously she had touched on a delicate subject as far as this man was concerned. Maybe he just didn’t like having to admit to the more basic urges and feelings that plagued the lives of other mortals!

Making rash judgments about her host wasn’t going to make her stay here any easier! For all she knew Lucas could be very warm and loving to the woman he favoured with his attentions—She was doing it again! And she was too tired at the moment to make rational judgments about anything, especially this man; Jace had sent her here, so he must trust and like the other man. So would she.

‘Camilla chose the decor in this room herself,’ Lucas told her as he showed her into what was obviously his guest room, the pale lemon and brown colour scheme restful as well as being comfortably feminine; there was nothing Chelsea disliked more than a lot of frills and lace in a bedroom, having been pretty much a tomboy until she left school last year, still preferring to wear denims and tops when she wasn’t at work. ‘As my only female guest to date,’ Lucas added pointedly.

She doubted that any female guest he had, other than family, would sleep in a separate bedroom to him anyway; he was much too old and experienced to settle for a platonic relationship. ‘Camilla always did have good taste.’ She ignored his last remark, although her normally effervescent nature wouldn’t usually have let it go unchallenged. ‘It’s a lovely room.’

He nodded abruptly, putting her suitcase down on top of one of the single beds, uncaring of its dampness on the lemon coverlet. ‘I hope you’ll be comfortable. You have your own bathroom through here.’ He opened a connecting door, the decor in there similar to the bedroom. ‘Dinner will be in half an hour, if you would like something on a tray …?’ he raised dark brows.

She shook her head. ‘I’m not hungry. But I can cook you something, if you like?’

‘That won’t be necessary,’ he dismissed arrogantly.

‘I’d enjoy doing it.’

‘I can get my own meals when necessary, although I have a housekeeper who usually leaves my evening meal for me. She’ll be back at work from seven-thirty in the morning, and she doesn’t leave until four. She’s had the weekend off in my own absence,’ he explained.

She should have known he didn’t keep this huge apartment spotlessly clean himself; he hardly came over as the domesticated type. ‘I can help her out, if that’s okay?’

‘Mrs Harvey would probably leave if you tried. And as she’s been with me the last five years I wouldn’t thank you for that,’ he warned.

She could well imagine. ‘I just thought that as well as being helpful it would give me something to do.’ She shrugged. ‘But if you say no …’

‘I say no,’ his mouth twisted. ‘Good domestic help is hard to come by nowadays.’

He wasn’t being patronising, merely stating a fact. Nevertheless, Chelsea wondered if the awesome-sounding Mrs Harvey viewed herself as ‘domestic help’. She knew that their own maid, Clare, would have been most insulted by the title. Her face shadowed. Poor Clare, she had been as devastated by Gloria’s death as everyone else; the elderly woman would probably never recover from the shock.

Lucas frowned as he watched the expressions flickering across her candid face. ‘I’m not so sure you don’t need food more than rest.’

And from the sound of it he personally intended seeing that she got it! But even the thought of food still made her feel ill, although she wasn’t sure she had the strength to fight this formidable man right now. She was saved the trouble of finding the energy to try as the telephone began ringing somewhere in the apartment.

‘I’ll go and answer that,’ he said somewhat impatiently.

‘I’ll probably have fallen asleep by the time you’ve finished with the call,’ she told him hastily, in no mood to have food forced on her.

‘Chelsea, I——’ He broke off irritably as the telephone continued to ring shrilly, seeming to become more and more insistent the more he tried to ignore it. ‘I’ll have to go,’ he strode to the door. ‘If you need anything——’

‘I’ll find you,’ she nodded.

Lucas gave her a hesitant look before leaving the room to answer the telephone, the melodious sound of his voice muffled through the apartment walls.

Chelsea sat down heavily on the single bed next to her now that she was alone, the weight of her mother’s death forcing her down, both mentally and physically. She would never, ever, forget finding her beautiful mother lying so peacefully in her bed she seemed to be only sleeping, her silver-gold hair spread out across her pillow as if brushed there, the blue of the silky nightgown she wore a perfect match for the eyes beneath the long, fanned-out lashes, her make-up perfect, her mouth seeming to be curved into a smile, almost a secretive smile, as if something pleased her even as she lay there.

But that serene beauty had been disturbed from the moment Chelsea had contacted the emergency services. Her mother had no longer looked peaceful or beautiful as they tried to revive life where it had decided it no longer wished to be.

And it had all been her fault. If she hadn’t decided to go bowling straight from work instead of going home as she had planned to do her mother might still be alive now, she might have been able to get the help soon enough to be of some good to her mother. It hadn’t seemed so strange when she received no reply at home when she called to tell her mother of her delay; since the two of them had lived alone they had lived pretty independent lives, both of them busy with new careers. She had simply assumed her mother had gone out to an early supper, her job as a realtor often keeping her late with prospective clients. She hadn’t dreamt, hadn’t guessed, the real reason her mother had been unable to come to the telephone. To come home and find her like that had shaken Chelsea to the core. She doubted she would ever get over not being there when her mother needed her the most. She knew with certainty that the guilt would always be with her.

.

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